Giving Welsh athletes the edge in Commonwealth Games – how performance science is helping

With the Commonwealth Games due to open in Australia on 4 April, Welsh athletes are preparing to take part, knowing that the expertise of Welsh researchers in performance science is behind them.

The Welsh Institute of Performance Science, set up 3 years ago, gives Welsh athletes, coaches and practitioners access to the latest research in the field of sporting performance. 

WIPS researchers, based in universities across Wales, work with elite athletes in different disciplines: from athletics to cycling and swimming.

Research projects include: 

  • Technique optimization for swimmers
  • Tapering for competition
  • Warm bath study for heat acclimatisation
  • Breathe to win
  • Optimising athletic development

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Picture:  Commonwealth Games athletes from many sports benefit from WIPS expertise, including swimmers.  (L-r) Ellena Jones and Alex Rosser are Swansea University students and Alys Thomas is a graduate.  All are in the Wales squad for the Games  

As well as academic expertise, WIPS also involves businesses in the sector, and Sport Wales, which is responsible for developing and promoting sport and physical activity in Wales.

Swansea University leads the academic side of the new Institute, working with colleagues from Bangor, Cardiff, Cardiff Metropolitan and the University of South Wales.

WIPS was set up to ensure academic research is answering key performance questions set by Sport Wales and their priority sports.  In addition, it also aims to maximize the impact of sports science research in academia, an area where Wales is very strong.  For example, in the last assessment of universities’ research strengths, A-STEM, a sports science research team based at Swansea University, was ranked 5th in the UK for impact.

Liam Kilduff, Professor of Performance Science at Swansea University, and co-chair of the WIPS strategic management board, said:

“WIPS is a great example of an effective collaboration between Sport Wales and the academic community in Sports Science here in Wales.

There is significant strength in Performance Science research here in Wales and by coupling this with the great work Sport Wales do we aim to ensure Welsh athletes continue to be competitive on the international stage.”

The project has delivered way beyond my expectations and this is due to the great work of our academic partners, Welsh Government and in particular the staff at Sport Wales and the respective national governing bodies we have worked with. A special mention needs to go to Dr Joy Bringer who has been relentless in her drive to ensure this project continues to be a success”.

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Picture: Dr Camilla Knight (left) and Professor Liam Kilduff (right) testing an athlete in Swansea University's sports science labs

Brian Davies, Sport Wales Director of Elite Sport, said:

“Having access to performance science experts at universities across Wales is providing Welsh athletes and coaches with key gains in their training and preparation.

“The partnership is bringing benefits across Welsh elite sport, but the potential use of the research further down the sporting pathway and also for public health benefits are also hugely exciting.”

Ken Skates AM, Cabinet Secretary for Economy and Transport at the Welsh Government, said:

“Improving sporting performance through science, medicine and technology is what often sets successful sports men and women apart, aiding preparation, performance and recovery.

I’m delighted that we’ve been able to support the Welsh Institute of Performance Science in helping Team Wales athletes flourish, whilst at the same time driving prosperity through academic research and development, innovation and knowledge transfer.

This will help contribute to Wales’ growing international reputation not only as a country of great sporting prowess but as a great place to innovate and do business. I am looking forward to seeing the results of some of that work at the Commonwealth Games when I visit the Gold Coast next month.”